This weekly round-up brings you key climate news from the past seven days, including a historic win for small island states, the outcomes of the long-awaited UN Water Conference, and Europe’s latest steps to cut emissions.
1. UN Adopts Historic Resolution on Climate Justice in Major Win for Island States
In a major win for small island states, the United Nations General Assembly passed on Wednesday a historic resolution on climate justice asking the world’s top court to define the obligations of individual states to fight climate change.
In 2019, Pacific island law students initiated a campaign demanding clarity regarding the obligations of small and big countries in terms of dealing with global warming. Led by the Republic of Vanuatu, the four-year campaign culminated in Wednesday’s landmark resolution that will finally see the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on climate change and human rights.
While not legally binding, the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion could help clarify legal obligations under other international agreements and thus influence future negotiations.
The US, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, did not support the resolution.
Read more here.
2. UN Water Conference 2023: New Water Action Agenda a Good Start but ‘Not Enough’ to Stave off Global Crisis
More than 2,000 government representatives, scientists, academics, Indigenous people, and youth delegates agreed on a new agenda outlining a series of action-oriented commitments to stave off the global water crisis on the final day of the UN Water Conference 2023 in New York.
Despite warnings of the unimaginable risks humanity is taking by delaying action, last week’s conference – the first meeting on water in nearly half a century – did not end with an internationally-binding treaty like the Paris Agreement in 2015 or the long-awaited framework to protect the world’s biodiversity at COP15 last December.
Instead, the Water Action Agenda agreed upon comprises voluntary commitments and water-related plans submitted by nearly 700 grounds including local and state governments, NGOs, and companies before and during the conference that advocates hope will culminate into binding agreements at this November’s COP28.
3. EU Gives Final Approval to 2035 Ban on Sales of CO2-Emitting Cars With E-Fuels Exemption
After weeks of delay caused by last-minute opposition from some member countries and conservative MEPs, the European Union gave the final approval on Tuesday to a landmark law banning the sale of new CO2-emitting cars by 2035.
Approved by EU countries’ energy ministers after the European Council and European Parliament voted in favour of the ban last October, the new legislation’s intermediary goal sees a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions for new cars and 50% for new vans by 2030 compared to 2021 levels. By 2035, all sales of new combustion engine cars will be prohibited, resulting in a 100% cut in emissions.
The European Parliament and Council also reached another agreement on Tuesday to boost the number of publicly accessible electric recharging and hydrogen refuelling stations across the 27-bloc’s main transport corridors and hubs, facilitating the transition to a carbon-neutral transportation sector.
Read more here.
4. UK Is ‘Strikingly Unprepared’ for Climate Change, Report Warns Ahead of Updated Net-Zero Strategy Announcement
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) said the UK is “strikingly unprepared” for the impacts of climate change ahead of Thursday’s highly anticipated release of a revised net-zero strategy. In its 2023 Report to Parliament about the progress in adapting to climate change, the government’s official climate adviser said there had been a “lost decade” in efforts to adjust to a warming planet and urged officials to act as climate-related damages will inevitably intensify in the coming decades.
The CCC has repeatedly urged the government to act in the past as there is “little time left” to protect people and ecosystems from the impacts of climate change and said last summer’s record-breaking heatwave was both an example and a warning that the country ignored. Unprecedented temperatures surpassing 40C for the first time in parts of England claimed more than 3,000 lives in what experts described as an “all-time high” heat-related mortality rate in the country.
The assessment comes ahead of the long-awaited “Green Day” on Thursday, when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to outline dozens of policies as part of the country’s updated net-zero strategy after the previous version was rejected by a High Court judge last summer for being insufficiently detailed.
Read more here.
5. Italy Vows to Support Fossil Fuel Projects At Least Until 2028 Despite COP26 Pledge to Cut Investments
A new policy for phasing out public financial support for fossil fuel projects overseas has raised concerns among environmentalists about potential backsliding on Italy’s COP26 pledge to cut investments by 2022.
The new rules, presented by Premier Giorgia Meloni last week, will allow Italy’s state-owned export credit agency SACE to finance gas exploration and production projects until January 2026. Existing exemptions, which include projects deemed “strategic” for the nation’s energy and economic security, could postpone the date even further. Support for oil transport, storage, and refining projects will be allowed until 2024, and oil distribution until 2028. A deadline for gas transport and storage has yet to be defined.
At COP26 in 2021, Italy joined 38 countries in signing the Glasgow Statement, a joint pledge on “International Public Support for the Clean Energy Transition” to end any support for fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of 2022 and in its place prioritise finance for clean energy.
Read more here.